“Owning up to the truth” is a strange but revealing expression because, while seemingly virtuous, it implies an admission of lying or, at the very least, deliberately concealing the truth.
Much has been said in the media about the lies that were propagated by “leavers” and “remainers” alike during the EU referendum campaign. Worryingly, in spite of the ample evidence of systematic lying, illegal campaign funding and the abuse of social media systems on a scale that could have tipped the results, the government has taken almost no action to prevent the repetition of such behaviour in future elections and referenda.
Instead, our government is still trying its best to keep us – and even our MPs – in the dark about its own forecasts of the economic and social impacts of both a “no deal” exit from the EU or the eventual adoption of Mrs May’s Brexit Plan. Such secretive behaviour is bound to arouse our suspicions that, if we were to have access to the material and find the predictions dire, we would become still more critical of Theresa May’s seeming determination to push ahead, regardless of the consequences, with her demands that we support her plan or face a “no deal” outcome.
Both May and Corbyn repeatedly claim that, in pursuing their Brexit options, they are acting in good faith in interpreting the “will of the people”. Their problem is that neither of them has the guts to own up to the plain truth that there is no potential Brexit deal that can offer anything like the benefits of the arrangements that we now enjoy with our neighbours. Nor do they think to remind us that, if we go for a Brexit solution, this implies at least 3 more years of damaging uncertainty. Their obstinacy in continuing to pursue agendas that they themselves know to be self-harming for the country is down-right deceitful. Through their behaviour, they are effectively abdicating their responsibility to act with due honesty in the national interest.
Each day that the heads of the two leading political parties continue this charade, the more irreversible harm they are inflicting on the economy. Both of them can now genuinely claim to have done everything within their power to define a Brexit plan that would be good for most British people. They have now learnt from their experience that there is no such thing as a good Brexit – whether it is hard or soft.
The best way to rebuild confidence in our political leaders and institutions is for May and Corbyn to come clean and jointly own up to this truth – and the sooner the better.